Table of Contents
Spatulae are instruments which flare from a handle to a rounded or straightened blade terminal, the latter used for the purposes of spreading. Most spatulae encountered through the PAS are Roman and were used to spread wax onto wooden writing tablets, and also to clear the recess in the tablet prior to reuse (Leahy and Lewis 2018, 142). Generally what survives is the spatula’s anthropomorphic handle in copper alloy; often the iron blade has corroded away, but do check the slot at the base of the handle for ferrous corrosion products. Many handles take the form of the bust of Minerva (Henig in Timby 1998, 166; fig. 80, no. 2.20), goddess of wisdom and learning: note that Minerva can appear on many other types of object. Other handle forms are plainer and very rare, and are discussed for Britain by Crummy (2003) (and more generally by Feugère 1995); they tend to have urban or military associations. The rural context of the PAS findspots comprises significant evidence for literacy, if these artefacts were being used for their primary function (Worrell 2008, 357). It would seem that other figurative forms of handle noted from elsewhere in the Empire, such as Mercury or Serapis, are not known from Britain.
PAS object type to be used
PAS classifications to use
Roman wax spatulae have been classified by Feugère (1995), whose type A5 corresponds to figurative handles, including those depicting Minerva. The other sub-types of his group A are geometric, while his group B comprises double-ended spatulae. If you can, put the Feugère type in the classification field in the following format: Feugère type A5. Eckardt (2014, Appendix 9) has distinguished three groups within the Romano-British Minerva handles, based on the quality of representation.
Terms to use in the description
Spatulae have a blade and a handle. The depiction of Minerva shows her helmeted, wearing a Corinthian helmet, but only occasionally is the aegis (Gorgon’s mask) worn over the front of her cuirass present.
The Minerva bust handles (Feugère type A5) tend to be dated to the 2nd century AD to the first half of the 3rd century (Feugère 1995, 331-332). Other types have been found in earlier contexts, which follows for objects associated with the Roman army and administration (Crummy 2003, 14).